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Political Wire logo Maybe It Won’t Be Trump or DeSantis
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Ron DeSantis Apparently Has a Food Problem

Trump Has a Massive Oppo Dump on DeSantis

If you thought Donald Trump was going to wage a clean primary campaign based on the issues... well, it doesn't matter, because we know you weren't thinking that. It is going to be wrestling in a mixture of mud and superglue. Trump's oppo research team already has a large file of dirt on Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and is preparing to roll it out.

Before becoming governor of Florida, DeSantis was a teacher, a prosecutor, and a member of Congress. He has a moderately long record for the oppo team to examine and pluck selected items out of context. Just as one example, there is that already-infamous photo of DeSantis with some high school girls that suggests he was trying to ply them with alcohol. Couple that with Trump's assertion that as an assistant U.S. Attorney, DeSantis went easy on child pornographers, and it is already clear that Trump is going to accuse DeSantis of being a pedophile and worse.

Trump's team is already running focus groups to test different kinds of messages to see which ones work best. DeSantis will claim Trump is a liar and might even point out that The Washington Post logged over 30,000 lies Trump told in office (although that runs the risk of essentially admitting that what appears in the Post is true). The trouble (from DeSantis' point of view) is that if Trump and his allies hammer on this over and over and over and over and over, at some point, some people will start to say: "Where there is smoke, there is fire," even when all the smoke is totally manufactured.

Trump might also try to land a few blows above the belt. He has always said he won't monkey with Social Security. That view is popular with his base. As a congressman, DeSantis voted to raise the retirement age, which is not at all popular with blue-collar voters. Trump is likely going to push this point very hard.

Trump has an advantage now: DeSantis is not running yet. This gives Trump 2-3 months in which to tar DeSantis with an ad blitz without giving DeSantis a platform to fight back. Once DeSantis announces, he has plenty of deep-pocketed donors who will dump tens of millions of dollars into super PACs to fight back. It will be interesting to see how DeSantis fights back. Will he go after Trump personally and, for example, attack Trump's many marriages and affairs with porn stars? Or will he stick to: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the least woke of them all?" The more personal and nastier Trump gets, the more DeSantis will be tempted to fight fire with fire. On the other hand, most (maybe all) the dirt about Trump is already out there, so it won't be newsworthy. Of course, DeSantis could just make some up. (V)

Biden Plans to Run against the Freedom Caucus

It was probably inevitable, but it is now increasingly clear that Joe Biden will make the House Freedom Caucus the face of the Republican Party and a primary foil is his reelection campaign. It's pretty easy to make an ad that says: "The Republicans want to split the country in half" and then show a clip of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) saying precisely that. Clips of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) saying outrageous things aren't hard to find. In short, Biden's oppo team is going to be as active as Trump's. And it has the advantage that the FC has some 40+ members, so Team Joe can pick and choose among the clips of all of them saying outlandish things.

Last week, this approach was on display when Biden noted that the Republicans want to cut all nondefense spending by 25%. He said: "Twenty-five percent across the board. That means cops, firefighters, it means health care—that's just what they call discretionary spending." Of course not all Republicans are calling for a 25% cut, but enough of the FC members have been recorded saying that such that there is plenty of footage available. Also, because there are over three dozen FC members, Biden's ads can show three or four of five Republicans saying the same thing, giving the impression that it is the entire party.

One plus for Biden is that many people who don't follow politics closely don't know anything about the Freedom Caucus. So when Biden's ads show three of them saying something on taxes and a different three saying something on abortion and yet a different three mouthing off about immigration or vaccines, it can easily give the impression that the entire Republican Party is on board with the FC.

Biden is also going to push the point that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had to capitulate to the most extreme House members to get elected speaker and is completely beholden to them. Clips of the 15-ballot vote-a-thon in January can make that point visually. While Biden is not going to run ads that are really out of bounds, as Trump is going to in the primaries, he is also not going to run an entirely positive campaign. There will be many attack ads as well, especially starring FC members. (V)

Chip Roy Endorses Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis isn't even running for president yet but yesterday he got his first congressional endorsement. It came from Rep. Charles "Chip" Roy (R-TX), a very outspoken and hard-line member of the Freedom Caucus. In the past, the Freedom Caucus was very Trumpy. Is this the first sign that the dam is about to break? We don't know, but it gives Trump something to worry about.

What does Roy like about DeSantis? Well, he praised the governor's "faith in God" and his being a "dedicated husband and father." We haven't spoken with DeSantis' children, so we don't know if he is a good father, but is this really a key quality for being president? If so, then George Washington wasn't a good president because he wasn't a good father (he never had children), while John Tyler must have been a great president because he had children coming out of his ears (15 in total). Fortunately, Roy also praised DeSantis' opposition to woke corporations as another reason to support him. (V)

Republicans also Have an H.R. 1

In the previous session of Congress, when the Democrats (nominally) had the trifecta, House Democrats introduced and passed H.R. 1, the "For the People Act." It would have reformed voting law and campaign finance law, ended gerrymandering, and much more. The designation H.R. 1 indicated that it was the Democrats' #1 priority. It died in the Senate, thanks to the filibuster.

Now that the Republicans control the House, they also have a top priority and have introduced a bill called H.R. 1 to indicate as much. It is named "The Lower Energy Costs Act," and is basically a giveaway to the oil and coal companies.

The bill is all about increasing fossil fuel production, making it easier to do fracking, and to import and export fossil fuels. It also makes it harder for environmental groups to block oil and gas projects. It additionally mandates more sales of off-shore oil leases in the ocean. Other provisions undercut the environmental aspects of the bills the Democrats passed last year.

But, wait: There's more! There are provisions that would make getting permits to mine on federal lands easier. The bill also contains permitting reform for infrastructure projects, so it is certain to get the vote of Sen. Joe Manchin (R-WV) if and when it comes to a vote in the Senate.

Sara Chieffo, of the League of Conservation Voters, said: "This destructive energy bill does not offer real solutions to high energy costs and would lock us into decades of dirty, volatile fossil fuels, perpetuate the climate crisis, and cut out communities from the process." The first part was to be expected. The last bit doesn't really relate to mining on federal lands or the permitting process, but is intended to refer to the fact that poor minority communities often are hit harder by pollution (e.g., where toxic waste is dumped) than wealthy white communities.

The bill will probably pass the House on a straight party-line vote but will be killed in the Senate. If a second senator joins with the Republicans and Manchin to support the bill, then the Democrats will filibuster it. (V)

"George Santos" Files for Reelection

Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY) appears to have a tin ear or some other perceptual deficit. He seems to have missed the many, many calls from members of his own party that he not only not run for reelection, but that he resign from Congress right now due to his multitude of lies. And not only is he not resigning, he just filed the paperwork to run for reelection in 2024. If he thinks he could win even the Republican primary, let alone the general election in a swing district that the Democrats will pour millions into, he is totally delusional. Though note that filing doesn't require him to run. He could back out later. It just makes it possible for him to run.

The House Ethics Committee is looking into some aspects of his 2022 run. Specifically, there are allegations of sexual harassment against him and the Committee is investigating them. The Committee could recommend that "Santos" be expelled from the House, but expulsions are very rare. Although Republicans are embarrassed by "Santos," they don't want to expel him because they fear the Democrats would win the resulting special election.

State and federal prosecutors are looking at his campaign. They are curious about how he went from a salary of $55,000 and no assets during his 2020 run to loaning his 2022 campaign $705,000 in 2022. If he somehow earned over a million dollars in 2021, did he pay taxes on it? And if he didn't, did some billionaire in his district give him the money and then he pretended he was spending his own money? That sort of straw-man construction is illegal. (V)

EMILY's List Has, Well, a List

EMILY's List is a pro-choice group that gives money to pro-choice Democratic women running for public office. Emily isn't the name of the founder. It stands for "Early Money Is Like Yeast." This seems to be the season for lists of House candidates that one group or another will endorse and fund. Monday we had the DCCC's "defend" list. Yesterday we added the NRCC's "attack" list. Today we have EMILY's list, along with whether they are also on both parties' lists, as follows. The final three columns in each list refer to EMILY's list (E), the DCCC (D) and the NRCC (R), respectively:

District PVI Incumbent E D R
AK-AL R+8 Mary Peltola X X X
WA-03 R+5 Marie Perez X X X
PA-07 R+2 Susan Wild X X X
KS-03 R+1 Sharice Davids X X X
OH-13 R+1 Emilia Sykes X X X
District PVI Incumbent E D R
CO-08 EVEN Yadira Caraveo X X X

District PVI Incumbent E D R
VA-07 D+1 Abigail Spanberger X X X
MN-02 D+1 Angie Craig X X X
MI-03 D+1 Hillary Scholten X X X
WA-08 D+1 Kim Schrier X X X
NV-03 D+1 Susie Lee X X X
NV-01 D+3 Dina Titus X   X
CT-05 D+3 Jahana Hayes X X X
IL-13 D+3 Nikki Budzinski X X  
OR-06 D+4 Andrea Salinas X X X
CO-07 D+4 Brittany Pettersen X    
IL-14 D+4 Lauren Underwood X    
OR-04 D+4 Val Hoyle X   X

Of the 18 House members EMILY's list wants to help, 13 are also on the DCCC and NRCC target lists. Three (Titus, Budzinski, and Hoyle) are on one list but not the other. Reps. Brittany Pettersen (D-CO) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL) are on neither of the party lists. Both are in D+4 districts. Probably the Democrats thought they were reasonably safe and the Republicans essentially agreed. The X X X congresswomen are going to have the most competitive races. If you want to get involved in a House race, these are the people to support or oppose.

One thing that is certain, though, is the ads that EMILY's List will run will all be about abortion and will highlight the candidates' support for women's right to control their own bodies. That was a potent issue in 2022 and with EMILY's List jumping in now, it is certain to be that again in 2024. Since its inception, the group has raised and spent over $850 million and has backed 1,700 winning candidates from city council on up. (V)

North Carolina Supreme Court May Re-allow a Republican Gerrymander

As you know, all state Supreme Courts take an oath to do whatever their party wants of them. What? Did we get this wrong? You're right. They don't take an oath. They just do it anyway. Last year, the North Carolina Supreme Court threw out a highly gerrymandered U.S. House map that would have given the Republicans 11 seats to the Democrats' 3 in a 50-50 state. Since then, something changed. Two Republicans won election to the Supreme Court, giving the red team a 5-2 majority. And just a few months after the previous ruling, the justices are taking on the map again. Strange? Of course not. Many state Supreme Court justices are just politicians in robes these days.

On Tuesday, oral hearings were held on the case. Three Republican justices made it clear that they would be happy to ditch the map used last November, which allowed the Democrats to capture seven of the fourteen seats, for the gerrymandered one that would probably result in a 11R, 3D delegation. And note that the only thing that happened between the previous ruling and Tuesday is that the composition of the Court changed. There were no population changes or anything like that. Just a different balance on the Court. The Court's motto should be: "We can do whatever we want because we have the votes." (V)

Democrat Is Infinitely Outspending Republican in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

North Carolina isn't the only state in which the state Supreme Court is the highest political organ in state politics. Right now, the Wisconsin high Court is split with three Democrats and three Republicans. The seventh and swing seat will be determined by a runoff election on April 4. The candidates are Daniel Kelly, a former justice who was booted off the Court by voters in 2020, and Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal Milwaukee County judge. Theoretically, the election is nonpartisan, but everyone in Wisconsin knows that Kelly is a Republican and Protasiewicz is a Democrat.

Protasiewicz has outspent Kelly since the Feb. 21 primary $9.1 million to $0. However, outside groups are also spending money on the race. Conservative billionaire Richard Uihlein has spent $2.3 million for Kelly and the state's business lobby has spent $3.4 million for him. Outside groups have spent $2.0 million supporting Protasiewicz. It is already the most expensive judicial race in American history and we still have three weeks to go. Polls show Protasiewicz ahead. Still, it is far from a done deal for her.

If Protasiewicz wins, Democrats are planning to bring many important cases to the Court. These include invalidating the Republican gerrymander of the federal and state district maps and declaring the state's abortion law unconstitutional.

Absentee ballots for the election went out this week. In-person early voting will begin next Tuesday. (V)

Young and Independent Latino Voters Are a Growing Force

Unaffiliated Latino voters are on the verge of becoming the biggest group of swing voters in the country. First-time Latino voters are registering at a rate higher than non-Latino voters in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, New York, and Texas. They could be the key to future elections. In 2020, there were 62 million Latinos, of all backgrounds, in America, and the number is growing.

Is this a bloc that can't be ignored? Well, actually, it isn't a bloc at all. This figure covers everything from fourth-generation Mexican-Americans in Texas to third-generation Puerto Ricans in New York to newly arrived Venezuelans in Florida. They have different top issues and vote differently. That hasn't always been true. John Kennedy took 90% of the Latino vote in 1960 and Jimmy Carter ook 82% in 1976, but the Democratic House candidates took only 60% of the Latino vote in 2022. Young, unaffiliated Latinos are mostly up for grabs.

In Florida, Latinos tend to vote Republican, especially the Cuban-Americans. In California, most Latinos are Democrats. One area that has become a battleground is South Texas, around the Rio Grande. That area had always been heavily Democratic but moved toward the Republicans in 2020. However, in 2022, it swung back toward the Democrats.

The Latino vote, especially new voters, could be critical in 2024 in Arizona, Florida, and Nevada. In Texas it could heavily affect several House districts. Both parties are somewhat aware of this, but figuring out how to appeal to both younger Latinos and older Latinos, who are focused on different issues, will be a challenge. (V)

Sarah Sanders Signs Bill Effectively Ending Trans Care for Minors

We have been running a series of items and reader comments about and from trans people last week and this week. One of the main reasons for this attention is that it is a hot political issue and will certainly figure in the 2024 elections. As evidence of how political (as opposed to personal) it has become, consider Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR), who has been on the job only 2 months. One of the earliest laws she signed was on Monday. It would allow anyone who has received gender-affirming care to file a malpractice lawsuit against their doctor for up to 15 years after they turn 18. Under current Arkansas law, malpractice lawsuits must be filed within 2 years of the injury. Under the new law, a doctor who provided such care for a 12-year-old could be sued up to 21 years later if the patient had a change of heart.

Under these conditions, providers will never be able to get malpractice insurance and without that, they won't be willing to provide this kind of care. De facto, this will eliminate gender-affirming care for minors in the state, but done in such a way that the courts are unlikely to throw the law out because all it does technically is change the statute of limitations for lawsuits. This indirect approach is needed because the state legislature passed an earlier bill directly prohibiting this kind of care and the courts blocked it. This workaround might well pass muster with the courts because it does not involve the state in telling doctors how to practice medicine, as the old law did. The law does have a safe-harbor provision that gives doctors a defense if sued years later, but only if they followed very restricted standards of care.

This isn't the only anti-trans bill the Arkansas legislature is working on. Another one would make it a crime to use a public bathroom reserved for the sex not on the user's birth certificate. This bill goes even further than the famed North Carolina "bathroom bill" that cost Pat McCrory his job as governor. (V)

Dutch election for Provincial Legislatures Were Held Yesterday

Letters we get from readers often complain about the fact that they get get to choose from only two parties in most elections and they don't like either of them. That's usually not true since in addition to the Democrats and Republicans, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party are on the ballot in many states. In some states, the Constitution Party and other parties are also on the ballot. But be careful what you wish for.

Yesterday there were elections in the Netherlands for the provincial legislatures and the 21 water boards around the country. The provincial legislatures aren't nearly as powerful as U.S. state legislatures, although they choose the members of the upper chamber of the parliament, the Senate, just as in the U.S. prior to the 17th Amendment. The entire upper chamber is chosen all at once every four years. There are no staggered terms, as in the U.S. Senate. Here are the preliminary results:

Division of seats in Dutch Senate

Sixteen parties are likely to be represented in the 75-member chamber. The red boxes show the results of yesterday's election. The gray ones show the current division of seats (i.e., the results from the 2019 election).

Together, the four biggest parties have 40 seats and thus a majority. However, the four biggest parties don't like each other. The BBB is a new right-of-center party that represents the interests of farmers. The VVD is the main conservative party. Groen Links (literally Green Left) is far to the left of AOC. PvDA is the rough equivalent of the British Labor Party. Getting these folks to agree on anything is out of the question. Imagine that Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN), and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) were the leaders of the four biggest parties in the House and together they had a small majority, with 12 other small parties also there. Could they agree on a legislative program? The upside of having 20-30 parties running for office with 16 having a realistic chance of getting at least one member elected is that voters can pick a party that exactly matches their views. The downside is a massively fragmented legislative chamber.

Putting together a majority will involve cobbling together a coalition with a bunch of small parties, all of whom will demand the sun, the moon, and the stars for their support. The PVV and FvD are quasi-fascist parties, so nobody wants to work with them. The PvdD is the animal rights party. Their goals will be tough for any of the others to swallow. CDA is the Christian party, etc. Each of the small parties has some niche and smaller constituency that cares very passionately about one thing. Do you think the 50PLUS Party (think: the AARP Party) is going to support any agreement that in any way weakens Social Security? Try again. After months of haggling, some coalition will usually be forged, but it is likely to be a different one than the one in the lower chamber, which has more power than the upper chamber. Under these conditions, getting anything done will not be easy. In the U.S., if one party has a working trifecta, in theory at least it could abolish the filibuster and enact its program. That's much harder when the legislative branch is badly fragmented. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar15 Taking It to the Bank
Mar15 Republicans Announce Their House Targets
Mar15 Mike Pence Reminds Us Why He'll Never Be President
Mar15 Take That, Will Rogers
Mar15 Trans Bill on Tap in the House
Mar15 Why the Trans Hate?, Part VI: Stories of the Trans-Adjacent
Mar15 Word Cup, Round 3: Presidential Slogans
Mar14 Who Broke the Bank?
Mar14 Trump Officially Declines Bragg's Invitation
Mar14 Nikki Haley Is a Pretty Mediocre Politician
Mar14 Pennsylvania Republicans: More of the Same, Please!
Mar14 Neo-Nazis' Newest Target? Trans People and Drag Queens
Mar14 Why the Trans Hate?, Part V: Trans Analogies
Mar14 The Votes Are In
Mar13 DeSantis Visits Iowa
Mar13 Trump's Support in Iowa is Slipping
Mar13 Trump's Legal Problems Mount
Mar13 Freedom Caucus Finally Says What It Wants
Mar13 Pence Enters a Brave New World
Mar13 Manchin Keeps Tweaking Biden
Mar13 Fox Is Still Going Strong
Mar13 Democrats Announce Their List of Frontline Incumbents
Mar13 Colorado GOP Picks an Election Denier to Run the State Party
Mar13 Boebert Will Be a Grandmother Next Month
Mar12 Sunday Mailbag
Mar11 Saturday Q&A
Mar10 Biden Unveils His 2024 Platform... er, His Budget
Mar10 Bragg about to Win Trump Indictment Marathon?
Mar10 Still More Trouble for "George Santos"
Mar10 The Daily Wire Is Trans Hate Headquarters
Mar10 Why the Trans Hate?, Part IV: Trans Readers Weigh In
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Mar10 This Week in Schadenfreude: He Who Lives by the Sword...
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Mar09 DeSantis Previews His Presidential Campaign in His State of the State Speech
Mar09 Biden Proposes Increasing Medicare Tax for High Earners
Mar09 Trump Is Considering Four Women for Veep
Mar09 Republican States Are Leaving ERIC
Mar09 Supreme Court May Cripple the CFPB
Mar09 Newsom Boycotts Walgreens
Mar09 Poll: Trump Crushing DeSantis in New Hampshire
Mar09 Democrats Are Worried about a "No Labels" Third-Party Ticket
Mar09 Doug Mastriano Is Weighing a Senate Run
Mar09 Why the Trans Hate?, Part III
Mar08 You've Aggravated Everyone and His Mother, Tucker
Mar08 Time to Expand the House?
Mar08 Don't Doubt that DeSantis Is for Sale
Mar08 The Decline and Fall of Twitter?
Mar08 Tennessee Bans Drag Shows
Mar08 Why the Trans Hate?, Part II